Clinging

Share the Post:

Related Posts

Grasping is the link between hunger and suffering. When we cannot have what we want, the tension of unsatisfied hunger endures.

To understand suffering, we must take a close look at clinging. When we touch something soft, the mind is pleased and clings to the pleasure, wanting it to last. We experience tension because of the certainty that the pleasant experience will end; when it does, we want it back.

Hunger and clinging sustain each other as pleasures and pains come and go. 

-Gregory Kramer; Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom

When the HBO Max series, SUCCESSION, ended last night, I was happy to let it go. Frankly, ever since Logan died, I had grown tired of his children, none of whom had evolved much at all over the course of four seasons. Cousin Greg’s character started off as a bumbling innocent with integrity and a genuine concern for people but ended up a money and power grubber just like the rest of them. We tend to become our environments.

During this morning’s swim, the show’s major characters flitted around my head, one-by-one –   each of whom was driven by the Buddhist concept of clinging, as described above.

Each expressed his/her own unique version of clinging, as there are as many versions of clinging as there are illusions. The number 108 put forth in Buddhist teachings is just the beginning.

At the 11th hour, when Shiv was expected to cast her NO vote on the Gojo deal, she had an abrupt change of heart and burst out of the conference room, with Kendall and Roman following on her heels.

When demanded to explain the reason why she would vote to let her father’s legacy be absorbed by a foreign tech company, she tells Kendall, “I love you but I can’t stomach you.”

She also doesn’t think that he would “be any good at” the number one position.

Both of these reasons are lame. And given it was the last episode, wouldn’t it have been refreshing for Shiv to tell the truth: “If I can’t be Number One, no one gets to be Number One.”

“You’re voting against yourself,” Kendall prods her. But hasn’t Shiv, as the only daughter of a misogynistic father, been trained to vote against herself?

This is the woman who, on her wedding night, told her husband, Tom, that she wanted an open marriage. This is the woman who regularly plotted against the man who probably loved her more than any man ever had.

The saddest form of clinging was expressed by Kendall himself. When speaking of taking on the role of CEO of Waystar/Royco, he says, “I am like a cog built to fit only one machine. It’s the one thing I know how to do. I feel like if I don’t get to do this, I feel like I might die.’

Kendall’s wavering moods became annoying to witness as the seasons filed by. When he was large and in charge, when things were going his way, Kendall was manically on top of the world. At these times, it was always fascinating to watch how quickly he took on the mantle of his old man’s nuclear arrogance and demeaning, exploitative ways.

When things weren’t going his way, it was just the opposite, and we got to see Kendall morph into his hangdog persona as quickly as Clark Kent turned into Superman.  Over time, he became a caricature of himself, and the paragon of an untransformed addict with two settings: arrogance and self-hatred.

“I’m the eldest son!” he blasts at Shiv as a last viable pitch for why he deserves to fill his father’s shoes. Earlier in the episode, when he sat down in Logan’s office chair and put his feet up on Logan’s desk (something we never saw Logan do once), he was like a little boy visiting his father’s office on “bring your son to work day”.

Of the three siblings, Roman was my favorite. He had the biggest heart, the most compassion, and a highly-honed comedic front for portraying his deep brokenness.

After Shiv left the conference room to go cast her vote for GOJO, Roman finally wakes up to the emptiness of his pursuit of something that was never in his life’s blueprint in the first place, and that he never really wanted, anyway.

“It’s nothing,” he teaches Kendall.

“It’s not nothing,” Kendall protests.

“It’s bits of glue, broken shows, phony news,” he states.

Meanwhile, Kendall’s brain is working overtime to plot another way to win.

“We are bullshit,” Roman decries. “You are fucking bullshit. I am fucking bullshit. She is bullshit. It’s all fucking nothing. I’m telling you this because I know it. We’re nothing.”

Finally, Roman has put an end to his suffering.

From my perspective, over the course of the series, Kendall had engaged several times in brief intersections with suicidal ideation, including his last one in the final episode when he looked out at the glistening ocean before taking his seat alone on a wooden bench – his father’s former bodyguard and keeper of secrets watching over him like a guardian angel.

Kendall had been alone on the bench his entire life, questing after love and approval from a man who was incapable of giving it.

What was Kendall thinking when he found himself near waters, as he did at least three times during the series? Was he thinking about the young Scottish man – a fellow drug addict – who drowned in that murky lake during Shiv’s wedding? Did he believe that his life had been spared for a reason?

If he did believe that his life had been spared for a reason, he had to invest everything he had into that reason and cling to it like his life depended on it.

Instead, his experience from that traumatic day forward was one of a goldfish flapping around on the carpet after a kid’s ball accidentally upended its fishbowl.

Now the only thing that Kendall believed he was made for is lost and gone forever. He’s an   untethered addict-child with no sense of self or grounding anywhere in his life. His marriage has failed. When he sold out everything good about himself by throwing the presidential election for dictator-in-the-making, Jeryd Mencken, he says out loud, “I’m a bad father.” He has little to no self-awareness. I wonder where he thinks he’s going to go next.

In the show’s final scene, Kendall sits dead still on that park bench, staring out at the soothing waters, the sun flooding his face.

In the next instant, the screen snaps to black.

Kendall had become a master of this type of quickly-changing scenario over the course of his adult life.

But sometimes, even a master gets tired.

Penultimate

Earlier today, after sharing a lengthy conversation with a man and his wife at Alon’s,  swapping stories of caregiving, death,

Read More